GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A dollop of peanut butter and a ruler can be used to confirm a diagnosis of early stage Alzheimer's disease, University of Florida Health researchers have found. Jennifer Stamps, a graduate student in the UF McKnight Brain Institute Center for Smell and Taste, and her colleagues reported the findings of a small pilot study in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences. Stamps came up with the idea of using peanut butter to test for smell sensitivity while she was working with Dr. Kenneth Heilman, the James E. Rooks distinguished professor of neurology and health psychology in the UF College of Medicine's department of neurology.She noticed while shadowing in Heilman's clinic that patients were not tested for their sense of smell. The ability to smell is associated with the first cranial nerve and is often one of the first things to be affected in cognitive decline. Stamps also had been working in the laboratory of Linda Bartoshuk, the William P. Bushnell presidentially endowed professor in the College of Dentistry's department of community dentistry and behavioral sciences and director of human research in the Center for Smell and Taste.
"Dr. Heilman said, 'If you can come up with something quick and inexpensive, we can do it,'" Stamps said.
She thought of peanut butter because, she said, it is a "pure odorant" that is only detected by the olfactory nerve and is easy to access.